China has threatened to enact “countermeasures” against U.S. entities involved in the downing of its wandering spy balloon earlier this month, an incident that further crippled delicate relations between the global superpowers.
In a regular briefing Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China “firmly opposes” the U.S. action and “will take countermeasures in accordance with the law against the relevant U.S. entities that undermine China’s sovereignty and security.” He added that Beijing will “resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and its legitimate rights and interests.”
It is unclear what exactly those countermeasures are and which entities will be impacted.
In what appears to be an unrelated move, the Chinese Commerce Ministry on Thursday sanctioned U.S. defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon over arms sales to Taiwan.
Last week, the U.S. sanctioned six Chinese aerospace companies for their ties to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). According to the Commerce Department, the entities were involved in the Chinese military’s “aerospace programs including airships and balloons and related materials and components.”
Administration officials have determined that the balloon was capable of harvesting signals intelligence, which includes electronically communicated data such as communications and radars.
The Washington Post reported this week that the U.S. had actually tracked the balloon since its lift-off from China’s Hainan province.
On Wednesday, an anonymous official told Reuters that the object was originally set to reach Guam and Hawaii, but was blown off course by strong winds.
The assessment echoed China’s claim that the balloon had gone astray due to force majeure. Still, Beijing insists that it was a civilian airship used for weather research, not a spy craft.
Experts believe a path to dialogue is a meeting between U.S. and Chinese diplomats at the Munich Security Conference this weekend.
State Secretary Antony Blinken, whose trip to Beijing was halted due to the balloon incident, is expected to lead the U.S. delegation.
Meanwhile, Japan has raised similar concerns about unknown objects in its airspace. According to its Defense Ministry, at least three aerial objects have been spotted since 2019, and they are all believed to be Chinese spy balloons.